So this is clearly a confessional, but also a passionate plea for the way we practice yoga to be about inclusion and never exclusion, compassion and not judgment, flexibility and not rigidity.
Let me explain.
I feel like I’m not practicing what I preach.
I yell. I drink (too much) wine. I’m impatient. I get angry with the kids (ie yell) too often. I’m not vegetarian (although I don’t each much meat), and while I don’t really feel guilty about it, I do feel judged. I judge myself too much.
I’m so flippin' tired a lot of the time from cramming too much shit into my life. I don’t always meditate and I don’t practice yoga as much as I ‘should’.
I’m a yoga teacher who right now doesn’t feel very yogic, or very zen. I’m a hypocrite, a fraud. Did I mention I judge myself far too much?!
Maybe you can see yourself in me – the yogi who tries to be ‘perfect’ but can’t extend herself the self-compassion that is the foundation of being compassionate towards others. The yoga teacher who talks the Sanskrit talk, but doesn’t always walk the downward dog walk.
Key Tips to Counter Yoga Hypocrisy
So when I find myself feeling like a yoga hypocrite, I try to remind myself of a few things that you might also find helpful:
1. It’s yoga practice, not yoga perfect.
Life is lived, not perfected. The path of perfectionism is a walk in hell. You get the idea – give up on being perfect!
2. Yoga is defined as ‘union’ but there are many paths.
We all follow the eight limbs of yoga in different ways and at different stages. We are united within ourselves (mind, body and spirit) and between ourselves through yoga, but unity does not imply we all have to be the same.
So we don’t have to be all the same or perfect (there is no yogic ‘ideal’). What a relief!
3. We all make our own choices and things are better when we respect each other’s choices.
I am on a path to learn more about Ayurveda as the sister science of yoga and I have respect for vegetarianism. I have increased my vegetarian eating over time and I choose ethically-farmed and organic animal products.
I realise this is not the choice of many yogis, but I try to be comfortable with my own choice.
4. Modern life is busy and peace is not always possible.
That’s why most of us need yoga. Personally I’m at a particularly busy stage of life with two school-age children and becoming a yoga teacher has added to my busyness, as I fit teaching in around the demands of parenting and working my regular job four days a week.
A wise (coffee mug) saying reminds me that peace is not the absence of stress and busyness but the stillness found in the midst of it. And sometimes a glass or two of wine really help.
5. Gratitude is always the answer.
I try to be grateful for the time that I find to meditate and practice yoga. I am grateful for the gift of being able to teach, even though it makes me busier. I’m grateful when I find patience and peace in the midst of stress.
6. We teach from our strengths and our weaknesses.
Richard Bach says ‘we teach best what we most need to learn’. It is through my flaws and my own journey to be better that I can best teach my yoga students and my children and that I can provide the best advice I can to friends and family members.
I’m not being hypocritical by not having all the answers or living up to some perfect ideal, I’m just being human.
7. Compassion finds a way.
I believe the practice of compassion is perhaps the most important practice of yoga. Compassion is love at its most powerful. If we just focus on showing compassion to ourselves and each other, then we can ditch the word hypocrite from the dictionary.
When was the last time you caught yourself being a 'yoga hypocrite' and how did you re-center yourself? Share your thoughts in the comments below!